Vetiver, the deep roots of perfumery

The story of vetiver begins in the exotic lands of India, where this tropical plant, named "vettiveru" in Tamil, takes root.  It flourished in various countries with tropical climates, such as Haiti, Java, Reunion, Brazil and China.

With its vigorous tufts of tapering leaves that grow where no other plant will, vetiver is sure to impress. But its main attraction lies underground, in its fine, tangled roots. Immersed up to three meters underground, they contain a precious resin, prized for centuries for its aromatic and medicinal virtues.
The first mentions of vetiver date back more than 2,000 years to the texts of Ayurveda, the traditional Indian medicine, where it was praised for its medicinal properties. Its roots were used to treat a variety of ailments, from digestive problems to skin disorders and respiratory ailments. Its use gradually spread throughout Asia and beyond.

Interest in vetiver in perfumery emerged later, around the 12th century, when Arab peoples began distilling vetiver essential oil for its aromatic qualities. Vetiver's woody, earthy and slightly smoky scent quickly seduced perfumers, and it became a valuable ingredient in the composition of fragrances.

 

From earth to essence

The transformation of vetiver into a precious essence is an ancestral art. Harvesting the roots, known as "digging", requires painstaking work to extract the rhizomes buried in the soil. Once washed, cut and dried in the sun, the roots are steam distilled for over 24 hours, giving rise to an essential oil of amber color and unrivalled olfactory richness.

A jewel in perfumery

In perfumery, four varieties of vetiver stand out: Haitian, Java, Indian and Bourbon vetiver, the symbol of Reunion Island. Although the latter has long been renowned for its finesse and exquisite fragrance, production has suffered from a lack of manpower in recent years, leaving Indonesia and Haiti to dominate the world market.

Vetiver exhales a woody fragrance with a green, smoky trail and warm, earthy tones. Depending on its origin, its essence can reveal a variety of olfactory specificities. Bourbon vetiver offers an earthy, spicy scent, while Java vetiver is distinguished by pronounced bitter and smoky notes. Haitian vetiver, meanwhile, has a warm, vegetal scent, with hints of iris. Overall, vetiver has a distinctive scent reminiscent of undergrowth and incense.

A veritable treasure trove for perfumers, it is used in base notes as a fixative. (Blog post, The olfactory pyramid) It identifies the trail of fragrances and prolongs their hold on the skin. Its presence gives fragrances depth and warmth, harmonizing with other ingredients such as cedarwood or sandalwood in a woody composition, with oakmoss and patchouli (Blog post, The story of a symbol - Patchouli) in a Chypre fragrance, or with vanilla and amber in an oriental scent.

Ode to vetiver:

Many perfumers have brought this bewitchingly fragrant material to the fore. Three remarkable compositions stand out for their unique interpretation of vetiver, capturing both its richness and its timeless sophistication.

- Terre d'Hermès (Hermès): an iconic fragrance that captures the quintessence of vetiver. Launched in 2006, it quickly became a favorite. This fragrance opens with notes of fresh citrus and pepper, evolving into a woody heart of vetiver and cedar. Finally, touches of benzoin and patchouli add depth and mystery to this elegant, timeless composition.

- Vetiver (Guerlain): an essential reference in the world of fragrances. First launched in 1959, it remains a timeless classic. This composition opens with fresh, luminous notes of bergamot and lemon, followed by a heart of rich, earthy vetiver, enhanced by spicy touches of coriander and pepper. The warm, woody base of cedar and tobacco gives this fragrance elegance and sophistication.

- Vétiver Extraordinaire (Frederic Malle): a modern, refined interpretation of vetiver. Launched in 2002, this fragrance captures the raw, sophisticated essence of this emblematic plant. The composition opens with fresh, luminous notes of bergamot and neroli, followed by a heart of intensely green, earthy vetiver. Spicy nuances of pepper and nutmeg add complexity to the fragrance. It finishes with woody notes of cedar and sandalwood, offering memorable intensity and sensuality.

Uluru, a fragrance that connects us to the Earth

In our collection of natural fragrances, we are pleased to present "Uluru", a fragrance created around vetiver. "Uluru" invites you to discover the fiery heart of Australia, a land bathed in heat and sun, where the spicy scent of this ochre earth blends with the mineral notes of this monolith emerging in the heart of the desert. It's a charismatic fragrance that connects us to the Earth, in a surge of calm and serenity.

It opens with sparkling orange notes, evoking the color of this mysterious land. Evolving into a finely woody, smoky heart, where the softness of sandalwood blends with the dry tonalities of hinoki wood, "Uluru" ends in a powerful accord of vetiver and patchouli. It's a sensory journey that's hard to resist.


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